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Ok, so it was recommended to me, a “word” person, to try doing art journaling instead of a traditional word journal.  Given that I have never considered myself any kind of visual artist, the very concept was intimidating to me.  Heck, I’m left-handed, and I’ve always considered my handwriting to be so bad, that the idea of using that hand (or the other one or my feet) to try to represent what’s in my head sounded like a really BAD idea.  But there were reasons why I thought it was worth trying, and now I’m really glad that I did.

  1. I felt a need to journal, and to find a way to focus on what I’m thinking and feeling, really separate things and get, keep and/or restore perspective.  When I feel challenged, I needed a way to sort that out on my own, and not simply ruminate. 
  2. I had considered word journaling, but that really has never worked for me.  I have ADHD, and though I am really strong in the word department, I have difficulty really benefiting from journaling and sticking with it, and even after I’ve written a journal entry or 10, I lose them, don’t really look at them again, and the stuff that I’ve written kind of feels like it’s just disappeared somewhere and I forget about it, and I haven’t managed to keep a sense of benefit from the process aside from the mental dump at the time.  I kept losing the journals, and when I would later find them, very often my eyes would glaze over and I wouldn’t really connect unless there was something else motivating me to read a particular thing.  When I tried to write by hand, I couldn’t read my own writing.  When I do it on computer, it got filed and disappeared into the ethers.  If I printed it, I couldn’t remember where I stuck it. 
  3. But this art journaling thing has proven to be just the thing for me, and no one has been more surprised than me to discover how valuable a tool it has become for me.   The saying that a picture is worth 1000 words is even more true in art journaling, because I can look at ONE thing and get all that information and feeling that I put into it very quickly.  I can connect with a HUGE amount of information that I’ve shared with myself in a single image page, and I don’t have to wade through tons and tons of words that may be more difficult to hold my focus.  With the images, one sweep of my eyes catches my attention and what is represented in the pictures, and stimulates my memory and sometimes helps to remind me of solutions that are available to me in future situations, without taking a lot of time or energy to access that information again.  It’s like the image acts like a GPS for my brain!  Who knew?
  4. Because I do mixed media, combining various materials, methods, techniques, I can integrate anything I want into my journal–photographic images, images that I create myself, or use someone else’s images (with permission of course) into a page that conveys how I’m feeling, what I’m thinking about, or things that I want to remind myself about when I need those kinds of reminders. 
  5. Holding onto the journal entries isn’t a problem either, because they are visually appealing, and I can throw them right up on my walls!
  6. There’s something about the tactile aspect of the process of physically creating a representation of my thoughts/feelings in an art journal that really helps me to see myself from another perspective, and when I look at it, I know what the person who did that page was feeling, and I can examine it and decide what it means.  And the discoveries are not limited to just that moment, because looking back at earlier pages often makes me notice things that I hadn’t noticed before, such as progressions & transitions in how I think about something, or shifts in my moods, or little details that got poured into the art journal itself from my subconscious, but that I didn’t notice on a conscious level until later.  It would take me a long time to discover something similar if I was doing only word journals.
  7. It helps my husband to know and understand me better, as well.  He looks at my journal pages sometimes and better understands how I was feeling about something or that something was weighing on my mind differently than he had assumed.  Of course, I also write songs, and he being a musician himself, has observed things about some songs that I have written, that motivated him to ask me questions about what I meant.  Very cool to be able to give him ways to open dialogues with me and enrich our bond.
  8. The first journals that I’ve done now have within them ideas for future journals that I’d like to do!

I still don’t consider myself “an artist,” though I am pleased with my efforts.  My daughter and my mother are both artists, and I think they each have excellent talent, though they are very different as artists.  I accomplished what I was striving for—and more—so that makes it successful for me, to capture what I was feeling, chart the progression of my own thoughts and feelings, and through basically 4 stages, arrived somewhere that I was able to get through the journaling process.  It was actually quite a surprise how effective this was for me!  I am also pleased from an aesthetic standpoint with the outcome, as I find all of the stages pleasing to look at, as well.

Here’s Stage 1:

Here, this is a self-portrait, and at the time, I was feeling a bit disconnected, and unclear about how I was feeling about something pretty important.  What was bothering me Mood Journal 08.2009#1 4981x6847.2009#1 4981x6847was feeling “yucky” but not having clarity around what was going on with me, and that bothered me.  I began this series to sort out my own mind, and this is where I started.  It’s a curious process, having a pen or paintbrush in hand, with me being so unfamiliar with doing these kinds of manipulations, to be forced to develop skills to accomplish the task, using my hands.  Yet, I think that this was a key element to why it worked well.  I was forced to try to represent things that already felt unclear to me, in a form that was unfamiliar to me, using parts of my body (eyes & hands) in ways that I’ve never done before, and I didn’t have a clue how to start.  This kind of scenario would have been a classic dilemma for me in the past, yet in this instance, I somehow knew intuitively that I needed to do exactly this, and there was an unexpected sense of urgency about it for me.

Staring a a big white piece of paper without a plan for what I was going to do or how I would do it was daunting, to say the least.  I felt extremely reluctant to start to put anything on that paper.  What should my feelings look like?  What should I look like sitting with them?  What should the context look like?  Once I stopped worrying about deciding everything in advance, and just to go with my gut, I accepted that there was no right or wrong to this process.  What was important was DOING it.  It didn’t matter how it looked or how the materials worked, so long as I represented as accurately as I could, what/how I was feeling and/or what my thoughts were.  I feel that I accomplished this, and more effectively than I ever have with any form of journaling or lettering before.

More to follow…

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